Why Does Pessimism Sound So Smart? (Especially When Things Are So Good.)

Why Does Pessimism Sound So Smart? (Especially When Things Are So Good.)“For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell,” historian Deirdre N. McCloskey told the New York Times this week.

It’s hard to argue.

Despite the record of things getting better for most people most of the time, pessimism isn’t just more common than optimism, it also sounds smarter. The pessimist is intellectually captivating, garnering far more attention than the optimist, who is often viewed as a naive sucker.

It’s always been this way. John Stuart Mill wrote 150 years ago: “I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.” Matt Ridley wrote in his book The Rational Optimist:…..read more

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